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Force India Keeps Perez, Ocon For 2018

It has been a sometimes stressful 2017 with the drivers at Force India, but the team is keeping faith in their line-up for 2018.

Sergio Perez has signed a contract extension to continue alongside Esteban Ocon for a second season.

It will take Perez into a fifth campaign with the Silverstone-based team after four podiums, 12 top-fives and 306 points from the last 73 races together.

“Staying with Sahara Force India was always my priority,” the Mexican said. “It’s a team that has allowed me to show my talents as a driver and I feel very happy here. I’m proud of everything we have already achieved together and I think there is more to come. The team has done an amazing job this year to develop the car and establish our position as the fourth-best team in F1. In the end, it was an easy decision to continue our journey together.”

Ocon sticks alongside after completing his 14 events with them so far, collecting 13 results with points.

“Since joining us in 2014, he has matured to become one of the quickest and most consistent drivers on the grid,” team principal and managing director Vijay Mallya added. “Alongside Esteban, retaining Sergio gives us stability going into next season and one of the most exciting driver pairings in F1.”

Perez celebrated the news by placing fifth at the Singapore Grand Prix, moving level with sixth-place Max Verstappen in the drivers’ championship.

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Chaos Continues for Force India at Belgium

Eight years ago, Giancarlo Fisichella made the breakthrough performance for Force India at Spa-Francorchamps with pole position, and a second-place finish as the team grew from backmarkers to midfield competition.

In 2017, the event made memories for all the wrong reasons as drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez collided for the second and third times in 2017 and had problems for a third race following Canada and Azerbaijan.

At the start of the contest, Ocon was lucky to escape without major bodywork or suspension damage after hitting the wall while going three-wide with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Perez going into the fast Eau Rouge section.

On Lap 29 of 44, after the two collided again approaching the same area of the track, moments after Ocon questioned pit strategy, causing a safety car period for debris.

As the Frenchman took to the outside to prepare for a move, the two drifted into each other, with Ocon suffering left-sided front wing damage and Perez getting a right rear puncture.

Ocon recovered to ninth later on, while the Mexican’s race ended a couple of laps from the end, classifying 17th, both being serviced under the safety car.

Due to this, team principal and managing director Vijay Mallya will deny the two the opportunity to make high-pressure decisions in future.

“I have been very happy with our overall performance during the 2017 season with both drivers scoring points for the team and racing freely,” Mallya said. “As much as I support competitive racing, the repeated incidents between our cars are now becoming very concerning. Under these circumstances, I have no choice but to implement a policy of team orders in the interest of safety and to protect the team’s position in the constructors’ championship.”

Drama Spills Onto Social Media Post-Race

The clashing didn’t end on track as both used social media to give their sides of the story.

Ocon tweeted highly-emotive thoughts on the safety levels of the Mexican’s battling which could be read literally or as a joke.

At the time of the crash, he was angry at his teammate’s actions.

“Guys, what the f*ck? Honestly? What the f*ck is he doing? Front wing broken now,” he told his engineers.

Perez later released a video update on his beliefs of the incident in retaliation, taking the quote as a real accusation.

On Monday morning, Ocon gave an update to his fans.

Ultimately, the drama meant that neither was able to capitalize on Max Verstappen’s DNF, with Perez still seventh and Ocon remaining eighth in the drivers’ championship. Force India stays fourth in the constructors’, with Williams lowering their advantage over fifth to 58 points.

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Force India Continue Sensational Form

In a Spanish Grand Prix that had massively different fortunes for teams and their drivers, Force India kept their cool to claim their fifth straight double points finish.

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon profited from high-profile retirements to finish fourth and fifth. It is just the third time that Force India has placed both entries in the top-five in 176 events.

The team is the only one left on the grid to have a 100% record of scoring points with both drivers. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen succumbed to first lap contact, while Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas suffered a power unit failure.

Force India primarily spent the season calmly getting on with racing, and Ocon believes this is the key to the latest result.

“Sure, there were some circumstances on this afternoon that helped us, but you need to be ready to take the opportunities when they come your way,” Ocon said. “Once we had made it through the first lap chaos, we had the pace to easily keep ahead of all of the cars behind and we could manage our race. I feel we maximized what we could get out of it: the team are doing everything right at the moment, and that’s what makes us so strong. There’s still a lot we can achieve this year: we are always there when it counts, and the car is consistently fast. Scoring points every time we get out is what really matters.”

Verstappen’s retirement means Red Bull are now increasingly under threat from the team who finished fourth in 2016. Just 15 points came to them from Daniel Ricciardo’s third-place finish. The Austrian team is third in the Constructors’ Championship so far with just 72 points, just 19 clear.

Unless it can consistently find reliability and keeps out of danger on track, their lead could quickly disappear. As much as street tracks like Monaco can save them and reduce deficits, Force India will still be waiting to pounce. This season of rapid upgrades may even begin to lower the distance between the two as time goes on.

With Williams struggling in Spain outside the top-10, Lance Stroll still not scoring and Toro Rosso only collecting a few, the team could run away with fourth before the end of the year.

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VIDEO – Ocon Wins Three-Wide Battle for One Point

So how important is a single point in Formula 1? If you were watching the Australian Grand Prix, you might have gotten a pretty clear answer.

In F1 competition, only the top-10 spots pay points at the end of the event, so drivers are forced to push the envelope to try and be in the front half of the field. As the laps were winding down on Sunday, the desperation showed.

With six laps to go, Nico Hulkenberg held down the position – but only just ahead of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso. With Ocon and Alonso both closing, it made for a thrilling sequence of events through the back half of the course.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWjm1NEFdyA

 

For Ocon, it marked his first ever point in an F1 event after racing the second half of the schedule last season with Manor Racing.

“Scoring my first point in Melbourne is a very nice reward after what has been quite a tough weekend,” he said. “I spent almost the entire race fighting against Fernando [Alonso] because we were side-by-side for the first lap of the race. He was able to stay ahead, and I had to chase him for the rest of the afternoon. It was a hard fight because Fernando is a tough opponent and it was so difficult to get close and overtake. Eventually, I found a gap in the last few laps and took my chance going into turn one. It was a big moment for my race and took me into the points. I’m happy with the result, and I feel I’ve learned a huge amount from my first race weekend with this team. I hope this is the first point of many this season.”

Combined with teammate Sergio Perez finishing seventh, Deputy Team Principal Robert Fernley was happy to walk away from the weekend with seven points, stating it is “a fantastic reward for all the hard work over the winter and this weekend.”

“Esteban also delivered a fantastic drive, and everyone in the team was delighted to see him score his first point in Formula One,” he added. “His race-long fight with Fernando Alonso was one of the big stories of the race and seeing Esteban overtake with just six laps to go was great entertainment for the fans.

“Starting the season with a good bunch of points is always an important boost for the team and shows we have good reliability too. We know there is more performance to come, but we’ve started with our best foot forward and will head to Shanghai determined to build on these results.”

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Force India Bring Major Change with VJM10 Car

The third of the Formula 1 cars featuring on the 2017 grid was unveiled following Sauber and Renault unleashing their cars.

Force India released the VJM10 chassis for their 10th season in the sport, the car tasked with improving on their best-ever finish of fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship in 2016.

Its livery has changed for the 2017 season, incorporating more gray into their design. Their last few cars have including black as a primary color alongside gray and orange. Many sponsors have also joined the team, including whiskey brand Johnnie Walker.

The team has continued the trend of F1 designs with unique differences in understanding the new technical regulations. It stands out from having a more square-looking shark fin engine cover and a dramatic front wing that has features from previous designs in F1, including a slight step and a phallic tip.

Andrew Green, the team’s technical director, described the task ahead in developing the car throughout the season ahead.

“It’s definitely a big overhaul, one that requires a change in mentality. It took a bit of time to adjust at first, but we are there now, and I am confident we know where to look and where the performance is coming from with this car,” he said.

“The development slope is incredibly steep and we are going to see significant updates to the cars at regular intervals, right from the start; it’s going to be big updates and I don’t think development will start to taper off any time soon.”

Team principal Vijay Mallya expressed his feelings clearly on his Twitter profile, attacking rivals Renault, saying that the team does “not believe in unveiling prototypes”.

Sergio Perez is set to drive the VJM10’s first lap in testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on February 27 before teammate Esteban Ocon and development driver Alfonso Celis Jr. take over the drive.

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Force India Latest to Confirm Testing Schedule

With just days to go until 2017 Formula 1 cars hit the track for the first time, some teams have already decided when their drivers will pilot their machines.

Force India is the latest team to confirm their driver schedule for both pre-season tests at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona.

Young driver Alfonso Celis Jr. joins usual drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez in taking part in the first test before the two drivers have more time with their new car in the second test.

Perez has the honor of driving the VJM10 chassis out of the garage for the first time on the first day of testing on February 27, with Ocon taking over for day two. Celis will then spend a full day in the car before the two race drivers share the final day on March 2.

When F1 returns on March 7, Ocon will spend the first and third days of the second test in the car, with Perez spending time on track on days two and four.

The team is the second to fully announce their testing plans after Haas made their plans public.

Kevin Magnussen will drive their VF-17 chassis on the first two days of the first test before handing over the car to RomainGrosjean. The Dane will start the second test, driving on days one and three, with Grosjean taking to the track on days two and four.

Testing will be teams’ only chance to allow their drivers to settle in their cockpits or find potentially limiting flaws before the 2017 season starts in Australia two weeks after the final day of testing.

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THREE TAKEAWAYS: Brazilian GP Qualifying

A subdued amount of surprise came during qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix. With rain forecasted for the weekend, a large rainfall has not been seen yet, with just minor drops falling at a stage in the session.

As a result, another dry session came to a usual ending – Mercedes leading the way. Lewis Hamilton took a 60th pole position of his career, joining Ayrton Senna (65) and Michael Schumacher (68) as the third pilot to reach the milestone.

He also won the FIA Pole Trophy for the second year in a row, with the pole being the 11th of his season, the most of any driver.

Other stories have emerged during the weekend so far to make headlines.

FERRARI APPEAL FIA OUTCOME… AGAIN?

On the Friday of the Grand Prix weekend, the FIA rejected Ferrari’s appeal over Sebastian Vettel’s penalty at the Mexican Grand Prix after the team claimed that ‘new elements’ had emerged.

Vettel was given a ten-second time penalty, moving him from third to fifth in the final classification, after being found to have driven ‘potentially dangerously or erratically’ while defending against Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo during the Mexican race.

The team put in an appeal, but it was denied after the stewards from the race found that the team’s evidence had already been known in the previous race, and there was nothing new to discuss.

“Scuderia Ferrari argued in its written submission that the ‘new element,’ in accordance with Article 14.1, existed. In its verbal submissions, it also argued that there were two ‘new elements’,” a statement from the FIA read.

The team believed race director Charlie Whiting could have told Max Verstappen to give his third place to Vettel before the Ricciardo incident happened.

“In relation to the matter of the race director having the ‘power’ to instruct the driver of Car 33 to give back the alleged advantage, we note firstly that the relevant article gives the race director ‘absolute authority’ to allow the driver to give back a position,” the statement continued. “It does not imply an obligation to do so. The fact that the race director did not exercise his discretion is not relevant to the decision taken in Document 38.”

Ferrari also presented evidence from GPS they believed brought something new to the discussion.

“In relation to the GPS data, we note that this data is available to teams during the race,” the statement read. “It is also available to, and referred to by, the stewards in the Stewards Room during the race.”

The team could again appeal this decision if they want to, which they have apparently have now done. It is unclear what the team could gain from another analysis of the event, or if their evidence will again be heard.

GROSJEAN’S BEST QUALI PERFORMANCE

Excellent performance on the track is surely the perfect birthday present for Gene Haas, who turned 64 on the Saturday of the race weekend.

Indeed, Romain Grosjean stood out as one of the drivers of the session by setting a lap time good enough for seventh on the grid.

It is the highest position that a Haas car has ever outright qualified in in the sport; however, Grosjean did start seventh in Japan, moving up a place because of grid penalties applied to other racers.

The weekend has been an interesting one for the team.

Grosjean had a busy first practice session of tests, spending an installation lap with the halo device attached to his car before spending nine laps on Brembo brakes and a further 15 on Carbone Industrie material.

Using both types of brakes on the same track at a similar time and a similar temperature should be enough evidence of good data for the team to rely upon. The team will hope that this can be a breakthrough to end recent struggles with brakes during weekends.

After qualifying, he confirmed the use of new brakes and the team’s focus on such a troubling area of the VF-16 car.

“It’s good to be back in Q3, especially after the last two races where we were out in Q1 and really struggling,” Grosjean said. “Here we’ve been trying some new brakes, focusing on making them work as well as we could. The feeling was good right from the beginning and the cooler track conditions really helped us a lot.”

Grosjean was in an optimistic mood, saying he did not expect to reach the top-ten shootout for pole and that he has faith with the current pace of the car.

“There are still plenty of margins to improve for the future,” Grosjean said. “We’re always learning more about what we need to do, but we really weren’t expecting to be in Q3 today. Generally though, when we do get things working well together, we’re quite fast, which is encouraging.”

OCON PENALIZED

There is just one thing that the stewards had to give their thoughts on after the session after an incident during Q1.

Manor’s Esteban Ocon will start the race from the back after being given a three-place grid penalty after qualifying after an incident with Renault’s Jolyon Palmer. The Frenchman initially claimed 20th on the grid ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr.

It will be the seventh straight race that Ocon has started from one of the last three grid positions. It is the first time that Ocon has been given a grid penalty in his short Formula One career.

Formula One has spent a while without any penalties, with the last grid affected by racers moving because of demotions being in Japan at the start of last month.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Ocon Joins Perez at Force India on ‘Multi-Year’ Deal

Manor Racing pilot Esteban Ocon is moving to Force India for the 2017 season, partnering Sergio Perez at the team.

He replaces Nico Hulkenberg, who confirmed his move to Renault last month, on what is described as a multi-year contract with no official end date announced by the team.

It is the Frenchman’s first full season in Formula One after starting his career in the sport in 2016 for the final nine races of the season, replacing Rio Haryanto at Manor from the Belgian Grand Prix onwards.

Ocon is the winner of the 2015 GP3 Series championship for ART Grand Prix, tested for Force India last season, and is a Mercedes-supported racer.

It is Force India’s first driver change since 2014 when Perez and Hulkenberg signed for the team, and their seventh driver in ten years at the team after Perez, Hulkenberg, Paul di Resta, Adrian Sutil, Vitantonio Liuzzi, and Giancarlo Fisichella.

Ocon is pleased to have signed for the team and is looking forward to continuing developing his racecraft next year.

“I’m very excited to join Sahara Force India,” Ocon said.

“I know the team quite well already because I was a test driver last year and I’m really looking forward to working with everybody at Silverstone [the team’s British headquarters] once again.

“I’m still relatively new to Formula One, but spending half a season at Manor Racing has given me some valuable experience and I feel ready for this new opportunity.”

It has been rumored his Manor teammate Pascal Wehrlein (also supported by Mercedes) may have also been in contention for the seat, but interestingly Mercedes’ head of motorsport Toto Wolff says that Ocon has the ‘most impressive track record’ so far.

“Esteban has the most impressive track record in junior formulae and he is an exceptional personality outside of the car,” Wolff said.

“Force India have a strong record of working with young drivers, and have again shown courage and vision to take Esteban under their wing.”

Wolff also stated the appointment is a triumph for the sport as a genuinely quick driver claims a seat instead of a ‘pay driver.’

“Even more, it is a positive development for F1 that talent wins over money and we will be seeing some of the most impressive youngsters fighting to make it to the top in F1 over the coming years.”

At 20-years-old, Ocon joins Lance Stroll (17) and Max Verstappen (19) as one of three drivers under the age of 21 on the current grid.

Current confirmed 2017 Formula One grid:

Teams and drivers listed in current championship order. TBA = to be announced.

Mercedes – Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton

Red Bull – Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen

Ferrari – Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen

Force India – Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon

Williams – Valtteri Bottas, Lance Stroll

McLaren – Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne

Toro Rosso – Carlos Sainz, Daniil Kvyat

Haas – TBA, TBA

Renault – Nico Hulkenberg, Jolyon Palmer

Manor – TBA, TBA

Sauber – TBA, TBA

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.